This blog is a followup to my previous two postings on Remembrance Day. My wife has been following the ongoing outrage about the Canadian government's "New Veterans Charter", a shameful piece of work. What follows is a guest blog, as posted in www.giving-is-receiving.com.
Like thousands of other Canadians, my husband and I went to the
Remembrance Day ceremonies on Sunday and paid our respects to our
veterans. But I was struck by the hypocrisy of our government which has a
shameful record of treating our veterans. The annual outpouring of
gratitude on November 11th is not enough. We as Canadians need to stand
up with one voice and tell our elected members that they serve us. And
that we will not tolerate their mistreatment, neglect and denial of
rights for the men and women who risked their lives in service to their
Here are some details.
Equitas Society, a non-profit organization which represents Canadian wounded veterans, helped support the launch of a class action law suit against the Canadian Government on October 30th. The reason? In 2006, the government introduced the New Veterans Charter
and thereby changed the rules governing delivery of disability pensions
to veterans of Afghanistan. The new system moves away from the previous
lifetime, indexed disability pensions to lump sum payments under an
insurance type system that calculates the value of a missing leg, an
eye, based upon a Table of Disabilities. The maximum award is $250,000,
which with indexing is now $293,308, regardless of the amount of injury.
The new system does not factor in future wage loss, loss of capacity
or cost of future care. Instead of compensating for wage losses as a
workers’ compensation system would do, the New Veterans Charter, for
moderately disabled personnel, provides only a two to four-year
retraining program. According to the statement of claim, a severely
injured worker would receive up to $2 million in lifetime compensation
under a workers’ compensation program, substantially greater than what
veterans of Afghanistan will receive. Sufferers of post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) are particularly subject to low awards and the stress of repeated assessments by skeptical staff.
The new compensation works out to between 30 and 65 per cent less
(and up to 90% less for Reserve Force members) than the
disability pensions provided to veterans of other theatres of war,
according to the statement of claim. The government unfairly expects
veterans to invest these paltry payouts and live off the interest for
the rest of their lives. It allows them $500 to obtain professional
financial advice on how to best manage these inadequate sums for the
rest of their lives. These are people who have been severely injured,
many of whom who can no longer work, who have lost limbs, are suffering
from post traumatic stress disorder. Whose lives and the lives of their
families have changed forever. How does the interest from $41,411, which
was the sum awarded to one of the severely injured vets participating
in the lawsuit, convert to a lifetime of support? Does $260,843 begin to
compensate Mark Campbell who lost both legs at the knees and suffered
profound hearing loss in one ear, loss of a testicle and libido,
diminished mental capacity, major depressive disorder, PTSD leading to
alcoholism, and a future of chronic pain among other problems? These are
young people with a lifetime of suffering ahead, many of them with
families who also need support.
Only those who served in Afghanistan or as part of the Cold War are
subject to these new rules. Is it fair that these vets receive a
fraction of what vets of other conflicts have received? A fraction of
what they would receive under workers’ compensation plans or disability
plans of public employees. How many of our soldiers have to fight their
own government for what is their due. Or perhaps have given up because
the struggle is too great. All because the government wants to save a
dollar? This is a shameful budgeting exercise by the government on the
backs of those who have risked all and lost much in service of their
country. Compare the treatment of our Afghanistan veterans with how our
members of Parliament prepare for their own futures.
After six years of service in Parliament, our currently serving MPs
are entitled to collect pensions when they reach age 55. For every $1.00
that MPs contribute to their pensions, the Canadian taxpayers
contribute $23.30. MP pensions have a guaranteed return of 10.4% which,
if not achieved through the market, is funded by taxpayers thereby
removing all risks of turbulent markets. Qualified MPs who are currently
serving and who reach the age of 55 by 2015, will be eligible to
collect an average pension of $54,693 per year in 2015. In addition, if
they are not re-elected and are not qualified or old enough to collect
their pension, they are entitled to receive a minimum $78,800 in
onetime severance payments. An MP elected in the last election at age
19, the age of many of our wounded soldiers, will be eligible to collect
an annual pension of $40,000 a year or $1.3 million by age 80 if he
retires as MP at age 27 (Source: Canadian Taxpayer Federation Report on MP Pensions, Derek Fildebrandt National Research Director January 2012). There are certain changes pending in the Senate which, starting in 2016,
will change the eligibility age from 55 to 65 and increase the required
amount MPs must contribute to their own plans (Source: CD
Howe Institute: Federal Employee Pension Reforms: First Steps – on a
Much Longer Journey by William B.P. Robson and Alexandre Laurin
November 1, 2012) but the discrepancy between the treatment of vets and MPs is still shocking.
And finally for a little more perspective:
Steven Blaney is the MP who serves as Veterans Affairs Minister, the
person entrusted with looking after veterans. His pension entitlement
will be $56,035 starting in 2015 (lifetime pension $1,804,014) with an
additional severance payment of $78,866 if he is not re-elected as an MP
in 2015. (Source: Canadian Taxpayer Federation Report on MP Pensions, Derek Fildebrandt National Research Director January 2012).
You can read the Statement of Claim filed by Equitas Society on the Canadian Veterans Advocacy website. You can get more information from Equitas Society on its website or its Facebook page. Watch this YouTube video and read this story about Kevin Barry, one of the claimants in the Equitas lawsuit. An
analysis of the failings of the New Veterans Charter written by Dr.
Keith Martin, then MP for Esquimalt - Juan de Fuca, in 2006 may be found here. And
if you believe we need to do better by our men and women who have come
home disabled after serving our country, call or email your MP to let them know this is not right. Here is the list of MPs with contact information.
And please come back to visit because the next blog post will provide more examples of how the Canadian government fails our vets.